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At a Crossroads: The Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause Jurisprudence

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Though the First Amendment’s command that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is straightforward, the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence is anything but clear. To determine if a government action amounts to an establishment of religion, the Supreme Court has developed a number of tests looking for excessive entanglement, endorsement, or coercion, to name a few, that are inconsistently applied. When it comes to the constitutionality of passive displays on government property, such as the Ten Commandments, Christmas decorations, and war memorials with crosses, the lower courts are divided about how and when to apply the various tests, leading to unpredictable results. In The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the Supreme Court has been asked to review the constitutionality of a 93-year-old World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland that includes a 40-foot cross. Will the Supreme Court seize the opportunity to bring much-needed clarity to its Establishment Clause jurisprudence? What impact could a broad ruling have on religion in America? Join us at The Heritage Foundation the day after the oral argument at the Supreme Court as a panel of experts discuss these and many other questions surrounding this important issue.